Limited numbers of protesters showed up at rallies throughout Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) first trip to southern Taiwan, disappointing both organizers and demonstrators.
Organizers at a local Yunlin County Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) branch had announced that upwards of 500 protesters would take part in the last day of rallies against the Chinese envoy.
However, only about 60 ended up taking part, the majority of them local DPP lawmakers and their staff.
A major factor behind the development was the unwillingness of senior DPP officials to call on party supporters and endorse or launch the rallies during Chen’s visit.
DPP spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) explained the party’s position by saying: “We support spontaneous protests that are organized [outside of] the DPP. We don’t want any protests held in the DPP’s name.”
That message was given to the Yunlin DPP chapter on Friday, discouraging local officials from asking party supporters to hit the streets when Chen met with agricultural representatives at a local university, according to local officials.
Local DPP politicians in Chiayi County also said they received a similar message.
Unwilling to condemn the central DPP headquarters decision, local DPP organizers said they “understood their reasoning.”
Senior DPP officials have suggested they want to avoid controversy by not using the party name to stir up protests, even though it doesn’t oppose the ones that do occur.
One day prior to Chen’s trip south on Wednesday, DPP -Secretary--General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) suggested that he didn’t want to see a “clash between political parties.”
“And as long as the DPP comes out and protests, the [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] will say that it is a political clash,” he said.
In fact, the DPP hasn’t organized any protests against Chen since the Chinese envoy visited Taichung in December 2009, when students, taxi drivers and local residents came out en masse to protest against cross-strait exchanges.
Chen’s visit to Taipei in December also drew protests where only a few DPP politicians and pro-independence supporters took part.
Some participants over the past four days have said that the limited number of protesters sent Chen and by extension, Beijing, the wrong message.